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09 Jan '12

Ethics in hiring staff

Posted by T.J. Addington in ethics, hiring
We often don't think of ethics when it comes to hiring staff but the truth is that there is a significant ethical dimension to hiring, for the organization doing the hiring, for the individual under consideration and for the individuals that the new hire will impact. Consider these issues:


One: From an organizational point of view, we obviously are looking for staff members who will help us accomplish our mission. One of our key responsibilities, however, is to be as candid, honest and forthcoming about the strengths and weaknesses of the organization. Unless the potential staff member knows the true state of the organization, they are not in a position to make a fair analysis of their potential fit. 


One way to facilitate this is to invite the individual to talk with as many key individuals in the organization as possible to receive candid and unvarnished feedback. When hiring individuals who will be working for me, for instance, I invite them to talk to others who also work for me so that they get the best picture of what they are getting into as possible. They will hear things that I would not even think to share because they are not on my radar screen. My bottom line is that I don't want a staffer to tell me he/she was surprised by something six months in. My ethical responsibility is to ensure that they get the best information possible.


Two: From the candidates point of view, I need to ensure that the job being offered is truly in the lane of the person under consideration. If I hire someone who does not fit the position, I have messed with their life. Yes, they have a responsibility to answer the question of fit as well but if I am hiring it is my job to do the best due diligence possible to mitigate against a bad fit which will hurt them and the organization should it not work out.


This means that I should be willing to make whatever time and financial investment is needed to ensure a good match. On the time front it includes dialogue and discussion the potential staff member and with references. On the financial side it may well mean testing to determine competencies, wiring and fit. While we may not get it right all the time, our commitment is to have done all that we can to get it right.


A key practice here is never to do the hiring by yourself. None of us have the insight necessary to see all the angles, upsides and downsides of a candidate. I involve as many people in the process as I need to in order to ensure the best evaluation. If one of my key staff members has a yellow or red flag, I pay great attention to that and am unlikely to hire until that flag has been resolved. The stakes are too high. In this process, one of the most important questions I am trying to answer is whether the candidate has good Emotional Intelligence (EQ) or not. The answer to that question will be one of the chief determiners of a successful hire. (For more information on EQ, see blogs with the EQ label).


Third, from the team's point of view I want to ensure that the potential hire will be a good fit on the team they will serve on. That means that I need to involve other members of the team in the decision. Every hire has an impact on the rest of the team. I have a responsibility to them to ensure that the hire will serve the team well rather than hurt it. Not to involve them is both foolish and potentially harmful. Never hire an individual that cannot work in a healthy team environment no matter what their brilliance or skills. To do so is to disempower and therefore hurt the rest of the team.


In the hiring process, a guiding principle is that we pay now or we pay more later. In other words, the cost of getting it wrong is high, in disruption to the staff member, disruption to the organization and the complicated process of letting someone go. One either does good due diligence on the front end or one ends up paying significant costs to sever the relationship. There is no upside to a bad fit for anyone.


It is a sign of carelessness with people when we do not take the hiring process seriously. Too much is at stake for the individual, organization and team.